Over the years, Bollywood films and their content have evolved to a great extent, just like the audience’s preferences.
Unlike the solely entertainment oriented factor of earlier films, Bollywood movies of today have not shied away from depicting controversial social realities, the true and harsh face of society as it is and also, they have come to openly represent issues that are social taboos.
Unlike the blockbuster ‘masala’ movies that hit the theatres every now and then, some underrated Bollywood movies come and go completely unheard of. One of the reasons can be the lack of marketing resources, since these movies are not built on a large budget.
However, now as the audiences’ choice is evolving, more and more underrated Bollywood movies are getting their due attention, recognition and viewership. These movies are a little out of the ordinary and the mainstream.
There is something distilled about independent, non-commercial cinema and underrated Bollywood movies. Like all things that do not tread the path of commercial acclaim as their primary motive, these films too have an aesthetic uniqueness and essence.
Here is the List of Top 15 Best Underrated Bollywood Movies:
Nil Battey Sannata
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Released in 2015, this film starring Swara Bhaskar is a tale of a household maid, who is a high school dropout and a single mother of a sullen, unmotivated young girl, Apeksha. Chanda, the character played by Swara, dreams of rising from her social poverty and changing their lives for the better, by having her daughter educated.
However, Apeksha has determined that she will have to follow her mother’s profession of being a maid because of limited finances and therefore, doesn’t understand the need to work for her studies. The twist comes when the mother herself turns a student and competes with her.
What follows is a beautiful depiction of a mother-daughter relationship, in all its ups and downs. The movie ends with a remarkable scene at the Taj Mahal where Chanda motivates Apeksha, telling her that one must be dependent on efforts and not circumstances.
Rocket Singh : Salesman of the Year
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One of the finest, yet underrated Bollywood movies of Indian cinema, this comedy-drama starring Ranbir Kapoor was released in 2009. This movie is a must watch for every budding entrepreneur as he is in making. Harpreet Singh Bedi, played by Ranbir Kapoor, is an honest salesman in AYS Company.
But at the same tie, the top salesman of the company brings clients through bribery. In an instance while making concessions with a client, Harpreet comes to a realization that customer service is fundamental to any business.
And so, he decides to start his own company, the Rocket Sales Corporation, from within AYS. In the five member company, the person who serves tea is also a partner, for he brings talent to the company.
The rest of the film sees him undergo the hurdles that he must overcome for his company’s success.
It is an Indian epistolary, romantic Bollywood movie that the critics did not give its due appreciation, but is one of the films that will leave you warm in the heart. Although the film was a huge success at the box office, it was rejected at the last moment for sending as the Indian entry for Oscars.
Released in 2013 and starring two talented actors Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, the movie is triggered by an eponymous exchange of lunchboxes. Ila, played by Nimrat Kaur, packs a delicious meal for her husband in order to reignite the faded love in their marriage.
However, the dabba mistakenly gets delivered to Saajan Fernandes, played by Irrfan Khan, a widower about to retire from his job as an accountant. Having realized her mistake and also, having realized the affair her husband is having, Ila writes a letter to Saajan and packs it along with the lunchbox.
What follows is a warming exchange between the two, only through letters. The movie has an unusual ending as the two never get to meet with each other. Nevertheless, it is one of the must-watch underrated Bollywood movies that were ever made.
This is Rajkummar Rao starrer black comedy Indian film, that was released in 2017. Nutan or Newton Kumar, played by Rao is an obstinate government clerk sent on an election duty to the insurgency ridden jungles of Chattisgarh which are under Naxal control.
Despite the constant fear of guerrilla attacks, he tries to conduct a fair voting process for everyone. Accompanied by the weary soldiers of CRPF, he realizes that no person turns up for participating in the election.
As the movie moves forward, the people who have been brought for voting, in actuality cast their vote by selecting their favourite symbol rather than the party which it represents.
What follows is a complete parody of the election process. The film also stars Pankaj Tripathi in a substantial role. The film was accused of plagiarism but the authorities, including Anurag Kashyap, confirmed its originality.
Released in March 2019, this film did not succeed to acclaim enough commercial success at the box office. However, the issue that it posits is one that all must know. A teenage girl, who is an aspiring dancer, is diagnosed with the condition of alopecia, whereby she starts losing her hair gradually.
Starring Shweta Tripathi, the film puts across the beautiful message that one need not look good in order to feel good. The actors in the film have delivered some of the most solid and lasting performances that speak for itself.
At times light hearted and at times gravely serious, the movie speaks about the undeserved attention that youngsters especially, give in to appearances and outward looks.
The Tashkent Files
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Released in 2019 and produced by Zee Studios, this Bollywood film is a conspiracy thriller about the death of the former Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. The film turned out to be a sleeper hit at the box office, which means that it earned its commercial success after prolonged marketing and several days after its release.
It stars some of the top and finest actors of Bollywood including Naseerudin Shah, Pankaj Tripathi, Mandira Bedi, Mithun Chakraborty and many others. In many of the reviews of the films, it was accused of being politically motivated in light of the 2019 elections and therefore, suffered at the box office at its initial stages.
Nevertheless, after that, the film continued its screening in theatres for nearly a hundred days. Without doubt, it is one of the best underrated Bollywood movies of all times.
Jointly produced by Shoojit Sircar among others, this is one of the many underrated Bollywood movies that are meant to represent the bitter reality of society.
Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Angad Bedi etc.., this movie earned widespread critical acclaim. However, it did not cut through box office commercial charts.
The plot of the movie involves three affluent boys, who charge a complaint against the three female leads of the film, on accounts of harassment during a party that they all had attended.
What follows is a courtroom drama, with Deepak, the character played by Amitabh Bachchan, who is a retired lawyer, fights the case in favour of the women.
Through this, the film exposes the blatant face of society that disregards and demeans women. In the end, however, justice is served and the audience gets to see amazing dialogue delivery, heart-hitting truth and all of it encompassed within a brilliant screenplay.
Lipstick Under My Burkha
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Another movie with parallel narratives of four women who are stuck in oppressive marriages and relationships. The movie, which was released in 2016, showcases how through small acts of courage, these women find their freedom. Initially, the movie was banned in the country because of bold representation and explicit content.
Later however, it was accepted to be one of the highly acclaimed movies and went on to win several awards. The cast members include some of the finest actors including Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey and many others.
Apart from its narrative, the brilliant acting by these actors has led the film to be one of the paradigm shifting stories of Indian cinema.
This is the remake of the award winning Hollywood film Metro Manila and was released in 2014. It stars renowned actors in the lead roles, namely Rajkummar Rao and Patralekha, who play a desperate couple sunk in poverty and despair. Deepak, the character played by Rao, is tricked by two cons.
Eventually he is led to steal from the agency and although he is killed, he passes on the keys to the box to his wife. She and their daughter return to the village with a fortune and memories of Deepak and their happy past.
The film was highly praised for its cinematography that was done par excellence. The life of a family who have recently migrated to the city and their everyday struggles gives way to some familiar moments in the film and therefore, lasts with the audience.
The Blue Umbrella
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It is a 2005 Indian short film drama based on a novel by Ruskin Bond by the same name. Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and starring Pankaj Kapoor and Shweta Sharma in the lead roles, this movie is a story of a young girl named Biniya, who one day comes across a unique blue coloured umbrella that belongs to the Japanese tourists who are visiting the village.
She trades the blue umbrella with her bear-claw necklace with the tourists. Now, being the owner of a costly and beautiful Japanese umbrella, Biniya gains prominence in her village. Many villagers, jealous of her possession, conspire to steal the umbrella from her but in vain.
A delightful short film, this will surely revive the memories of charm, vibrancy and aplomb associated with childhood. The movie also won the National Film Award for the Best Children’s Film in the year 2007.
Margarita with A Straw
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This film is a coming of age narrative of a teenage girl, who is suffering from cerebral palsy and her relationship with a blind girl. Released in 2014, the movie stars Kalki Koechlin and Sayani Gupta and has been directed by Shonali Bose.
The movie was conceived when the director conversed with Malini Chib, her cousin and a disability activist. The film had an average opening at the box office, but went on to be highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
This film is a must watch for people struggling with a disability as it highlights the austere sentiments of being specially challenged. In addition, the fine and nuanced performances of the actors made it one of the best Bollywood films on issues of disability.
15 Park Avenue
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Starring hallmarked actors such as Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rahman and Rahul Bose, this film highlights the less discussed issue of ‘schizophrenia’ in modern lives.
Mitali, played by Sharma, is in her 30s and suffers from schizophrenia that leads her into creating an imaginary alternative reality. The ending especially is a surreal one as Mitali is led back to her ‘real’ family and home after a series of mishappenings.
The film, which was released in 2005, is a directorial venture of Aparna Sen, who is known to create dynamic and substantial content for the big screen. Without doubt, the movie with its compelling performances will leave you thinking and pondering over your own lives.
Raincoat is a film that was adapted from the short story ‘The Gift of Magi’ by O Henry and was released in 2004. It was directed by Rituparno Ghosh and had Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgn in the lead roles.
The plot is based on the story of two separate lovers who meet again one day as a play of destiny. Their rendezvous leads them to realise the true face of lives that they are living. The ‘raincoat’ of the title is a metaphor that leads them to this revelation.
The cinematography captures some wonderful moments that are familiar to all of us and therefore, leaves a warm in the heart impression. This is accentuated by the actors’ performances and guises that are not artificial at all.
They appear on screen as people that we encounter everyday on the go. This gives the film a flavour of reality and the true state of existence.
Mr. and Mrs. Iyer
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Another directorial project by Aparna Sen and starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Rahul Bose in the main roles, this movie is about an unconventional characters struck amidst the Hindu – Muslim communal strife.
Raja Chowdhary, a Muslim wildlife photographer played by Rahul Bose, comes across a Tamil Hindu, Meenakshi Iyer, played by Sharma on a fateful bus journey amidst riots.
To conceal Raja’s identity as a Muslim, they conjure up an imaginary love story of the two in order to disguise themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Iyer of the title. In the midst of the strife, they turn out to get emotionally consoled by the other.
As the movie comes to a close, they bid a warm farewell to each other at the railway station and the real Mr. Iyer receives his wife and child. The movie deals uniquely with the issues of religion and caste and shows them to be meaningless constructs.
Shor in the City
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This film is a crime thriller and comedy drama, directed by the hailing duo Raj and DK. Based on the lives of five characters, the movie captures the tribulations and struggles of life in a city like Mumbai.
It deals with the ideas of chance and luck, hope and despair and karma as the characters come to face with their own deeds.
The film was released in 2011 and stars actors such as Sendhil Ramamurthy, Tusshar Kapoor, Nikhil Dwivedi and Preeti Desai among others. The film earned stark appreciation from reviewers and critics, who found it brutally original and that which strikes directly at the heart.
Although it did not perform well commercially, it was warmly accepted by the audiences, making it one of the best underrated Bollywood films of all times.
So, currently when the entire world is in self-imposed quarantine, make use of your leisure time to watch all these best yet underrated Bollywood movies that went more or less unnoticed by the critics.
These films would give you a taste of quality cinema which is meant to represent reality, as it is, without sugar coating it in the covers of romance and excessive drama. How many of these are you going to watch?